Contingent dynamics of IS strategic alignment in small and medium‐sized enterprises

Margi Levy (Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK)
Philip Powell (School of Business, Economics and Informatics, Birkbeck, University of London, London, UK)
Philip Yetton (Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)

Journal of Systems and Information Technology

ISSN: 1328-7265

Publication date: 3 May 2011



This paper seeks to understand how strategic information systems (IS) alignment takes place in small and medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs).


The paper employs a qualitative and quantitative analysis of data from 27 cases.


A contingent model allows re‐interpretation of earlier findings that appear to be inconsistent. First, benefit realisation depends on alignment between IS and business strategies. Second, IS investment is frequently limited to supporting operations and transactions. Third, organizations with more sophisticated IS tend to perform less successfully than those with less complex systems, the greatest alignment and highest performance are reported for systems to improve efficiency, and organizations that adopt a low‐cost approach are unlikely to use IS strategically.

Research limitations/implications

The paper extends understanding of the contingent nature of SMEs' investment in, and use of, IS, and of the effect of market position on IS management. It provides guidelines by describing the dominant paths to alignment. The limitations are that the SME sample is not random, the scoring protocols rely on author coding, whether the research identifies cycles of alignment, alternative interpretations of path hierarchy, and if an SME's location uniquely defines its alignment path.


Performance is a function of the alignment between IS strategy and other business domains. However, prior research has focused on outcomes, rather than the processes by which alignment is developed. Using multiple case data, this paper investigates alignment in SMEs, explaining why different SMEs follow different paths to alignment. Four paths are identified, with the path chosen contingent on an SME's market position.



Levy, M., Powell, P. and Yetton, P. (2011), "Contingent dynamics of IS strategic alignment in small and medium‐sized enterprises", Journal of Systems and Information Technology, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 106-124.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.